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U.S. 'Stroke Belt' May Also Be 'Sepsis Belt'

U.S. 'Stroke Belt' May Also Be 'Sepsis Belt'

08/04/11

THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- People living in a region of the southeastern United States known as the "Stroke Belt" are known to have significantly higher rates of stroke deaths than the rest of the country. New research reveals these residents are also at greater risk for sepsis, a severe illness in which bacteria overwhelms the bloodstream.

"In 2010, we examined death rates from sepsis across the United States," said Dr. Henry Wang, associate professor and vice chair for research in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) department of emergency medicine. "Laying it out on a map, we saw that the states with highest sepsis mortality formed a cluster in the Southeast United States, closely mirroring the appearance of the Stroke Belt."

The "Stroke Belt" spans 11 states from Louisiana to Virginia.

Sepsis, which is typically triggered by infections such as meningitis or bacterial pneumonia, can lead to shock, organ failure and death. In the United States, sepsis causes about 200,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations every year, similar to the number of deaths from breast cancer and heart disease, the researchers said in a UAB news release.

Wang said he plans to conduct more research into why living in the southeastern United States is associated with this increased risk for sepsis.

"There are a host of possible causes for this geographic cluster," said Wang. "Possibilities include pre-existing medical conditions, health behaviors, diet, genetics and even the environment and air pollution."

He said he hopes the new research will lead to new ways to prevent sepsis.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on sepsis.

Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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